Transcript: Blazers F/C Joel Freeland Talks Hip, Second-Year Progress, Beating Out Meyers Leonard On Courtside

Doug Pensinger

Portland Trail Blazers forward/center Joel Freeland is interviewed about his hip injury and his progress during his second NBA season.

Portland Trail Blazers forward/center Joel Freeland was interviewed by Mike Barrett and Antonio Harvey on Monday night's episode of Blazers Courtside.

Freeland did not practice on Monday and is listed as day-to-day with a strained left hip. He sat for almost the entire second half of Portland's victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday after aggravating the injury.

Here's a transcript. The video will be posted right here on Blazers.com.

How is your strained left hip doing?

It was a lot better today. I actually tweaked it during the second quarter [against the Spurs] and I felt it. When I went back in in the third, when Boris [Diaw] went to the basket, I took one step back and it kind of gave out on me. I had to come out at that point. It's getting better. It feels better than it did yesterday. I took the day [off] today and I'm just hoping tomorrow that it's going to be a lot better for the game.

Will you play against Houston Rockets on Tuesday?

I don't want to say anything but I want to play, I want to play any time. Hopefully I'm going to be feeling better tomorrow and I'll be able to get out there to play. Obviously the decision isn't down to me, it's down to [trainer] Chris [Stackpole] and the physiotherapist, the training staff. I think I'm going to be feeling a lot better tomorrow and I'm hoping I can play.

Winning the back-up center job over Meyers Leonard

It obviously feels really good. I appreciate the time I've been given but at the end of the day I did work hard to create my role on this team. I had to figure out what my role was going to be on this team and I think I have the skillset to give the team what I'm giving them at the moment: energy, setting great picks, protecting the rim, running the floor, and being an all-around hustle guy. And not over-thinking things too much, not over-thinking the offense, not over-thinking the defense, just playing. That's something I've really focused on, it's paid off. I'm really appreciative of that.

Over-thinking during your rookie year

For me, it was all over-thinking. I had a lot of expectations on myself, and I always put a lot of expectations on myself. Having a year like that, it really hit home. But I think my whole thing was to focus on defense, letting the offense come to me. At the end of the day, if you look at the roster, the skills we have, guys who can put the ball in the bucket, there's really not a lot of room for anyone else to take shots. There's so much more to do on the basketball court other than just shooting the ball.

I really focused on defense, and being in the right position, and knowing when to rotate and not to rotate. Buying into our defense in general. During the time I was here [in Portland] prior to the Summer League and preseason as well, I was working on the defensive principles we were going to have for this season, to be able to get a step ahead prior to the season starting was huge for me.

Measurable goals for yourself numbers-wise?

There hasn't been any conversation but I know what I need to do now, and it's not really about numbers. I know I have to rebound. I make it a conscious effort to go after every rebound, even if I can't get it, just get my hand to it or something, that's a bonus for me and a bonus for our team. As far as numbers go, there isn't really a number I can put on it, it's just the energy I bring to the floor. Protecting the rim has been huge for the team in general and coach [Terry] Stotts loves it, everybody else loves it, so that's something I've bought into and I hopefully can carry on doing for the rest of my career.

As far as numbers go, nobody's saying you should be getting this, you should be getting that, no. It's just a go out and do your job kind of thing. I really know what I need to do when I get out there on the court. It's not that I'm going out there and I'm thinking I need to make all these shots or I'm going to come out. Now, it's that I need to stop these guys from scoring because that's my job.

Ever look back at what you've accomplished?

Yes, of course. All this happened in a quick period of time. I worked in a supermarket, everyone says I worked in a supermarket to fund my basketball, that was never the case, that was never the case. I was never this poor kid growing up not having any money, who had to find his way and scrimp and scrape. That was never the case. I did that because I wanted some extra money to go out with my friends or whatever. That story got completely out of control.

I started playing -- I had never seen an NBA game until I was 16. To be 16 and start playing and get drafted in three years was something incredible in itself. I do tend to look back at it, all the bad things that had happened last year, it's [actually] not all that bad. I'm here, and I'm putting in the effort and work, as long as I'm doing that I'm going to be in a good position.

Shooting jumpers

I never know when my shots are going to come. That's another tough thing as well. All the plays get drawn up for the other guys, I'm just there trying to rebound, try to run, try to block shots, that's another thing to get used to too. Suddenly having the ball in my hands and being open and just shooting the shot. As they say, it's something I can do, obviously I'm more comfortable doing it in practice in the moment.

The game in the NBA, I'm not as used to the game, still, offensively as much as I could be. I still have steps to take offensively. I think that's going to happen, I'm going to evolve on that in the time I'm getting at the moment. Last year I never got the chance to focus on the offensive side or the defensive side. Now I've got the defensive side kind of down, which I still need to work at. Hopefully my offensive side can feed off of that.

Fadeaway jumper

I added that to my game because I had so much trouble with the athleticism of the players and getting blocked inside. I needed a way to create space. If I dip my shoulder into someone and take that step, I've already created six or seven feet of space, it's tough to defend that shot, you see LaMarcus [Aldridge] hitting it it all the time. It's not a mystery that he hits it all the time because he uses his body well, he gets the defender off him, creates that space and shoots a comfortable shot. That's something I really needed. I'm quite comfortable shooting that shot as well. I need the time and practice to do it. That will come.

Practicing against LaMarcus Aldridge

It's amazing, it's amazing. You can't put anything on it. He really is legitimate. You see it in every game he plays. To be able to practice against someone like that, you learn so much. It's almost impossible to stop his turnaround jump shot, that's a fact. He hits it on pretty much everyone, every day in practice. To be able to go up against someone like that every day is huge on the defensive side as well. Learning tendencies, ways to guard people, take them out of their comfort zones, if you can do that to someone like LaMarcus you can have a lot of success in the league doing it to other players as well.

Relationship with Meyers Leonard

There's no bad blood between any of us. Me and Meyers get on just as well as we did before I got this position on the team. We were always going out, eating dinner. With [assistant coach] Kim [Hughes] as well, it's like a family, the team we have. There's never any bad blood between us and there never will be. We're here to do a job and we're here to make each other better.

Meyers is still young, he's 21 years old, it's not like this is the end of his career. He's just going to fight that extra hard to get a position on the team, win that position. He's not a lazy player, he's someone that puts in the work every day. I've seen it through last year and this year as well. He's a player who wants to improve and will improve. This whole team is great together. In general, we have an amazing team this year, talent-wise and personnel-wise.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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